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Why you need your own personal interpreter during the Canton Fair

In hustle and bustle of the modern trade show, having the right support is crucial. In this blog, we reveal why it’s a good idea to have a skilled personal interpreter by your side at the upcoming Canton Fair.


The China Import and Export Fair (also known as the Canton Fair), one of the largest trade fairs in the world, will soon be here once again. The question is, will you be ready for it when it is?


Held in three stages, each session of the Fair is a fast-paced week of searching, meeting, and talking products and services with suppliers. As a buyer attending one or more of these sessions, you’ll be meeting such suppliers, all of whom will be keen to do business with you.


To steer your way successfully through this intense activity, you’ll do well to have the best support you can. In this blog, we discuss the importance of translators in business and why it’s a good idea to have a personal interpreter alongside you at the Fair. We take a look at what’s involved first.


The Fair

If you haven’t been to a Canton Fair yet, get ready to be awed by the thousands of suppliers on display in the huge exhibition halls of the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Center in Guangzhou’s Pazhou district, when you attend the upcoming 2018 Autumn session (beginning October 15). Each day you’ll be rubbing shoulders with tens of thousands of wholesalers, retailers, and other professional buyers from around the world, each attending to source products for their project or business.


Supplier vs the Buyer: The Stakes

Many of the suppliers taking part in the Fair have one or more factories located in and around the sprawling Pearl Delta region that includes major manufacturing regions like Zhongshan and Jiangmen on the west side of the delta and Foshan and Dongguan in the central and on the eastern sides.


Many of the suppliers started out as family-owned factories and have been in business for decades. With China’s burgeoning growth over the past 30 years, these factories have developed rapidly to serve a thirsty domestic market as well as overseas buyers, at a breakneck speed. Such demands have left little time to adopt a more foreign-oriented approach to marketing their products, leaving it to contracted interpreters to assist them at trade shows like the Fair.


It also goes without saying that in any sales transaction, each party is working hard to ensure the best outcome possible for themselves in a business sense. The supplier will come to the Fair wanting to complete as many deals as possible during the week, with minimal fuss.


It is into this competitive stage that you as the buyer, on a mission to source great products and reputable suppliers for your business or project, will enter and with some careful planning, find what you need at a great price.


Why you need your own interpreter

Having your own interpreter in your corner during this time is the best way to ensure you communicate effectively with every supplier you meet and achieve your sourcing goals. Your trusted interpreter can:


Identify the right suppliers

With hundreds of suppliers available, even in your sub-category, it’s essential that you are able to sift through company information quickly to identify whether particular suppliers have what you need. Your personal interpreter will be able to assess any Chinese language content provided by the supplier and, based on your brief, quickly tell you whether the supplier is worth pursuing further.



Time is of the essence at a trade fair that is on for a limited time and has so much to look at. As your private support team, your personal interpreter can help you navigate the vast, multilevel Center complex to get you to your next supplier without difficulties.


Give you details

Suppliers attending the trade fair will have a representative, either a staff member or a contracted assistant, to act as their interpreter when dealing with foreign buyers. A supplier’s interpreter will have been briefed on the supplier’s business and product lines and so can provide information when asked. So a buyer making inquiries at the booth by him or herself should be able to get some answers to his questions.


However, the key considerations here are self-interest and contingency. The supplier’s representatives will know the supplier’s products and hopefully how to explain these, but they may not know the buyer’s business.


They will also have the supplier’s interests in mind when they talk business and be presenting the supplier in the best possible light. While they may provide accurate information, they may not disclose other relevant information available on the topic, if it is not asked for.


They also may have middling language ability which may make it difficult to explain specific concepts or topics. Having a reliable interpreter on your side, that knows sourcing in China, will alleviate these risks.


Extract value

Your personal interpreter can explain the information provided by the representative accurately. They can also ask to follow up questions to ensure you get a complete picture of what the supplier is able or not able to provide. From checking quality control to shipping methods, your interpreter will be able to extract the right information that can help with your decision making.


Explain your needs

Your interpreter will also be able to explain your needs accurately to the supplier’s representative. A good interpreter who understands your business will ensure that the supplier is clear about the kinds of products and services you want, which will help you determine whether they can fulfill your request. This will be invaluable, as discussions about products and ordering invariably become more complex the deeper the inquiry goes. Not being able to ask more questions and extract detailed information at this point in the meeting can negate the time and effort already spent.


Ask the right questions

The personal interpreter you need is one who is also experienced in sourcing. Importing goods from China can be an involving task. Being experienced in sourcing, your interpreter can give you insights into importing and shipping products from China and will know the right questions to ask the supplier to ensure all the important aspects of the process are covered so you can make informed decisions regarding your orders.


Provide local knowledge

A typical day at the Fair can consist of an early morning rise before a busy day of meeting suppliers. At the end of the day, you’ll want to wind down and have time to rest, absorb information and have a break, ready for the next day.


A good personal interpreter can not only help with interpreting but can also provide advice so you make the most of your downtime at the end of the day. This can include suggestions for and directions to restaurants and cafes for a meal, shopping districts to buy souvenirs and places of interest around town, during the Fair.


Provide ongoing support

While the supplier may have an English-speaking representative, this only will be helpful while you are at the booth. Once you move on, you will again on be on your own. So having a personal interpreter, and one who knows his or her way around the trade show site, the city and beyond if necessary, is an invaluable asset that will ensure you utilize your time effectively during your time at the Fair.


We hope you have enjoyed these insights into why having your own personal interpreter is a must at any trade fair or sourcing expedition you take part in, in China.


Remember, engaging the services of a personal interpreter is not only convenient, but it’s also a sound business move.



Use an interpreter to

  • fill the gaps when you do not speak Chinese or are not able to use it at a business level
  • convey what you mean clearly to the other party
  • clearly explain what the other party is saying
  • extract maximum value out of the discussion by asking additional questions
  • raise questions that you may not have thought of


Use a translator to

  • ensure you understand the written product and other supplier information correctly
  • ensure you understand essential documents especially the purchasing contract
  • clarify written terms and conditions regarding related activities e.g. shipping and delivery


Checklist: Before you start

Before you start out on your journey to the Fair, and to get the most out of your interpreter, we strongly advise that you


  • have an outlined schedule that includes the locations you would like to visit
  • know the kinds of suppliers you want to get in contact with
  • be clear about the kinds of products you want
  • be clear about what information you want to get from the supplier - regarding the products and the supplier itself
  • determine what other information you might need to get confirmation on certificates of compliance, payment methods, a timeline for payments
  • create a list of questions* you might want to ask, for your own record, and give this to the interpreter before you enter the Fair


*while buyers will come from many different countries, the de facto foreign language used, when sourcing in China, is English. While interpreters for other languages can be found, English is the most common foreign language learned by interpreters, so if you are prepared to use English, it will be easier to find someone who can help you.


Finally, we suggest that you spend some time with your interpreter before you begin, so you can brief him or her on your business and what you are hoping to achieve at the fair and/or during your factory visits. This will help him or she gets a better understanding of your requirements and in return help you in the best way possible. It also gives you a chance to get to know each other a little.


A good personal interpreter is your interpreter but also your guide in the coming days and if you form a solid partnership with them from the very beginning, you’re sure to get the most out of the experience. Happy sourcing!


Lesso Home is pleased to offer our Lesso Home members an exclusive interpreter package during the upcoming Canton Fair. Available to select members, this special package includes the services of a skilled interpreter experienced in product sourcing, who will accompany you throughout the day during your time at the Fair. Click the link on the home page to find out more!

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